May 31, 2009

Peralta and Indians walk off with victory

Despite a four RBI day for Mark Teixeira, the Indians (22-30) held off the Yankees’ (21-29) late comeback and went on to win 5-4.  Jhonny Peralta delivered the walk-off blow in the ninth for his third RBI of the game.

Quick ‘Cap:
Phil Hughes was unhittable in the first two innings, but then imploded in the third.  Peralta came through with a two-run single with the bases loaded, and then Mark DeRosa’s sac-fly made it 3-0.  Another sac-fly for the Indians in the fifth made it 4-0.

Carl Pavano scattered three hits to his former team through the first five innings.  In the sixth, Teixeira crushed a changeup for a two-run homer, but it should have been a three-run homer if Derek Jeter wasn’t called out on a play at first that he was clearly safe on.

Chien-Ming Wang came into the game in the sixth and pitched great once again.  His sinker really looked tough to hit, and the Indians could only manage three groundball singles over three innings.

After Teixeira tied the game up in the eighth with a two-run double, the Yanks wasted a chance to win the game in the ninth.  With first and third, one out, Posada grounded into an inning-ending double play.  The Indians made Posada pay in the ninth when Peralta singled in the game-winning run off David Robertson.  Full box score here.

Thoughts:
Bottom line, Posada choked.  If he comes through, Mariano Rivera comes into the game and the Yanks have their fourth straight win.

Even though he didn’t earn the W, perhaps this was Pavano’s way of getting back at all the Yankees fans berating him.  Opposing starter Phil Hughes had a good fastball, but had no control with his secondary pitches.  I wonder if Wang and Hughes flip-flop next time around in the rotation – at least that’s what I’d do.

Noteworthy Performances:
- Teixeira was the Yankees offense today.  He drove in all four runs for them, what a May he had!
- Wang turned in three shutout innings, lowering his ERA to 16.07 (nice…).  We’ll see if he is awarded for it.

Up Next:
The Yanks still have a chance to take the series in game 4 Monday night.  Joba Chamberlain (2-1, 3.97) will face lefty Jeremy Sowers (1-2, 7.71).

May 30, 2009

Yankees continue hitting tear in win over Indians

The Yankees (29-20) beat the Indians (21-30) 10-5 for their third straight victory.  Hideki Matsui led the way with three hits and Robinson Cano had a game-leading three RBI.  It was the Yankees’ sixth consecutive game with 10 or more hits.

Quick ‘Cap:
The Yankees compiled a 7-0 lead in the first four innings backed by a five-run rally in the fourth.  Both Derek Jeter and Cano contributed  two-run singles.  Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher hit solo shots in the second – the only two homers for the Yanks in the game.

Meanwhile, CC Sabathia was working on a no-no through four, but stumbled in the fifth.  He allowed four singles and two runs in the inning.  The two teams put up a run in the sixth and two in the ninth, making the final score 10-5.

Sabathia left after seven, but David Robertson pitched a perfect eighth.  Jose Veras was awful in the ninth, but he wasn’t bad enough to blow a seven-run lead.  Full box score here.

Thoughts:
A relatively easy game to listen to.  The early lead was just too much for the Indians, especially facing the Yankees ace.  The Yankees hitting just has been excellent recently, and ranks near the top in almost every category.

Noteworthy Performances:
- Cano was clutch again tonight and has been on an absolute tear: 18 for his last 44.
- Sabathia came up big again.  He now has fife straight starts of allowing three earned runs or less in seven or more innings.

Up Next:
The Yankees can clinch the series in Sunday’s matinee game.  It will be Phil Hughes (3-2, 5.16) against Carl Pavano (5-4, 5.50).

Yankees defeat Indians 3-1 despite Pettitte leaving with back stiffness

After a 90 minute rain delay, the Yankees (28-20) gained sole possession of first place after beating the Indians (21-29) 3-1.  Andy Pettitte left after two batters reached in the sixth with lower back stiffness, but Alfredo Aceves pitched beautifully in relief.

Quick ‘Cap:
Indians starter Cliff Lee escaped a bases loaded, one out jam in the first inning, but the Yankees put together two runs off him in the second and one more in the third.  Derek Jeter had an RBI single and Mark Teixeira scored another run on a groundout.  Nick Swisher’s deep sac-fly in the third scored Robinson Cano.  Lee allowed seven singles and walked two in the first three innings alone.

Lee cooled down though, and made it through six innings allowing no more runs.  Pettitte gave up a single to Mark Derosa and walked Ben Francisco on four pitches to start the sixth, prompting Joe Girardi and assistant trainer Steve Donohue to approach the mound for the second time in the game.  This time, he went back to the dugout with the two concerned coaches after just 84 pitches.  He walked five batters for the first time since June 2007.

Aceves let DeRosa score on a sac-fly from Shin-soo Choo later on in the inning, but nothing more.  He pitched a 1-2-3 seventh and allowed just a single in the eighth.  Mariano Rivera did his thing in the ninth for save number 10.  Full box score here.

Thoughts:
John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman didn’t seem to make much of Pettitte’s injury, which always scares me.  Girardi said after the game that he doesn’t want Pettitte to miss his next start, and taking him out early may prevent it from happening.

UPDATE:  Pettitte offers some reassurance to fans after the game:

“I’m going to be fine for my next start,” Pettitte said. “I was a lot worse when I aggravated it [in Texas], so I’ll definitely be making my next start.”  (h/t Newsday's Erick Boland)

Aceves was the man tonight, he’s really been the Girardi’s go-to guy in May.  He lost his first game of the season in his last appearance, but he made up for it tonight.

Noteworthy Performances:
- Jorge Posada was back in the lineup, and seems to be back where he left off.  He went 2-for-3 with a double and a walk.
- Pettitte earned his team-leading fifth win by battling in and out of trouble.
- Aceves: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 K.  That’s pretty.

Up Next:
Game 2 is tomorrow night between the former one-two punch for the Indians – CC Sabathia (4-3, 3.42) vs. Fausto Carmona (2-4, 6.42).

May 29, 2009

Pregame talk: Cervelli stays, Cash sent down

WFAN’s Sweeny Murti is reporting via Twitter that Kevin Cash was sent down, which means Francisco Cervelli will continue to catch for the Yankees along with the just-called-up Jorge Posada

Cervelli is out of the lineup tonight, but the Yankees may have put together their best lineup all season.

Jeter SS 
Damon LF 
Teixeira 1B 
Rodriguez 3B 
Cano 2B 
Posada C 
Matsui DH 
Swisher RF 
Gardner CF

If only Melky Cabrera was healthy… Oh well.  Gardner hasn’t been that bad recently (13-for-31).

The Yankees are facing last year’s Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee, who has not been helped out by his offense at all this season.  In his last three losses, his ERA is 2.34.  In his last eight starts, his ERA is 1.86.  Woah.  Should be a great game tonight.

Posada to return today, Cervelli to stay?

With Jorge Posada expected to be activated later today, somebody on the Yankees will need to step aside.  It is pretty clear that the player leaving will be Kevin Cash, Francisco Cervelli or Angel Berroa. 

If Berroa left the Yanks, they would be carrying three catchers on the roster. Berroa hasn’t been an influential utility player (oxymoron?), and I do not think he would be missed.  There have been talks that Cervelli would become the emergency utility infielder, and I wouldn’t doubt that notion.

UPDATE:  PeteAbe spoke with Cervelli in Texas, and he found out that he has only been catching since 2003.

I was a shortstop and a second baseman and I pitched in Venezuela,” Cervelli said. “I had never caught in my life. I had no idea what to do at first.”

I'd say he is definitely a quality emergency infielder (oxymoron?).

Cervelli has been one of the major keys to the streaking club.  He surprised everyone by holding a solid .300 batting average in the absence of Posada and Jose Molina.  But perhaps his more important contributions to the team are his high energy and good chemistry with the pitching staff.

As long as Cervelli stays, I’ll be happy.  I just hope Cervelli, as a second stringer, can continue to be productive and keep the team on their toes.

May 28, 2009

Yankees at stalemate with six starters

A six-man rotation is not a realistic option, but I am having trouble figuring out a different solution.

The Yankees have been hot in Wang’s absence, but now he is back and could actually help the team this time.  If Chien-Ming Wang is back to being the reliable Chien-Ming Wang of 2006-07, the Yankees have six capable starters.  Wang is essentially the monkey-wrench thrown into a perfectly working machine, if you catch my drift. 

Obviously, the top 3 aren’t going anywhere (CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and A.J. Burnett).  However, with three capable starters (Wang, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain) and only two spots left in a five-man rotation, one of them is going to the bullpen, the minors or another team.   

Although it is a good thing that the Yankees have too much pitching, something has to give unless the Yankees decide to switch to a six-man rotation.

This decision doesn’t have to be made immediately, but here are the “options” for the three pitchers on the bubble:

Wang: 
Wang was indescribably awful in his first three starts of the season, but he may have worked out his kinks in his rehab.  Two perfect innings out of the pen further substantiates his health.  There is no reason to keep him in the pen if he has returned to his good form of 2006-07.  In fact, his dominance in those two seasons should automatically earn him the right to move back to the rotation.

Hughes: 
Hughes has already mastered the minors, so sending him down would only be a waste of his time and talent.  So his other option would be to go to the bullpen.  After another excellent start in the second-easiest place to hit in baseball, I am going to vote he should never leave the rotation.  He is still young, 21 to be exact, but he has already conquered the minors so the only place he belongs is in the rotation.

Chamberlain: 
Joba’s situation is similar to Hughes’ in that he is not going back to the minors.  I guess there is more of an argument to put Chamberlain back as the setup man, but I have always been a firm believer in him being a starter.  He is having some difficulties pitching deeper into games, but he will learn with more experience in the rotation.  That is why it is imperative he stays right where he is if the Yankees see Chamberlain as a starter in the long-run.

Solution: 
I concluded that each of the three should be in the rotation, so what’s the solution?  There is no feasible solution!  The Yanks are gonna need all three of these guys next season when Pettitte leaves, so trading one of them doesn’t make sense. 

If trading were an option, I’d say keep the two best of the three, and trade the third.  For me, Hughes would be the odd man out.

Maybe the Yankees can keep Wang in the long/middle relief until the trade deadline, but I don’t think a trade is the right option.  I don’t think any of their options is the right option (that’s a problem).

The fall of the Yankee killer

Even though the Red Sox won today and regained sole possession of first place (for now), it was nice to see David Ortiz continue to slump as he struck out twice in four at bats.  He broke a bat out of anger after both of his strikeouts.

It seems Big Papi has finally lost his touch, yet he still has hit well in the five games against the Yankees this season.  In fact, he is hitting over .300 only against the Yankees (.316) and Indians (.313) this season.  Against the rest of baseball, he’s batting a mere .162.

He was moved down to sixth in the order yesterday and hit there again today, but it doesn’t seem to be helping (1-for-8, 3 K).

I wonder if he will still be batting sixth by the time the Yankees face the Red Sox at Fenway Park on June 9.

Matsui goes deep twice in win, Yanks tied for first

The Yankees (27-20) defeated the Rangers (27-19) 9-2 behind four home runs —two from Hideki Matsui— and shutdown pitching by A.J. Burnett.  Since the Red Sox lost to the Twins, the two rivals now share the top spot in the AL East.

Quick ‘Cap:
A first inning two-run homer from Mark Teixeira gave Burnett some confidence early on, and Derek Jeter’s RBI double in the second made it 3-0.  Burnett pitched six scoreless innings in the Ballpark in Arlington, but was pulled early because of his high pitch count (118).

Matsui drove the first pitch of the sixth inning in the right field stands, and then smacked a two-run shot in the seventh.  Kevin Cash drove in two more in the sixth with his line-drive single to left, and Robinson Cano ripped his ninth homer of the season in the ninth.

Jose Veras coughed up a two-run homer to Ian Kinsler in the seventh, and Joe Girardi was forced to bring in David Robertson to finish the frame.  The Yankees went on to win their 13th out of their last 17 games.  Full box score here.

Thoughts:
The Yanks had this game won from the start.  Besides the struggling Veras, my only concern was Burnett’s inability to retire a hitter quickly.  The Rangers were able to continually work 6-7 pitch at bats, and that led to his early hook.

Noteworthy Performances:
- Matsui was having a tough May, but hopefully this game will lead to a good June.
- Teixeira is red-hot in May.  Twelve of his 15 homers have come in the second month of the season, as well as 74 percent of his RBIs.
- Jeter reached base in five of his six plate appearances (2 singles, 1 double and 2 walks), and has nearly climbed back to the .300 plateau.
- Burnett turned in his only shutout performance of the season, and that only brought his ERA down to 4.78.  Is that worth $82.5 million?
- Chien-Ming Wang’s second appearance out of the bullpen in 2009 was perfect.  He retired the last six Rangers, and struck out two.

Up Next:
The Yanks will take a breather tomorrow after surging into first place.  They’ll start a four-game series with the Indians on Friday with two lefty hurlers on the mound.  Andy Pettitte (4-3, 3.42) will face Cliff Lee (2-5, 3.04).

May 27, 2009

Yankees All-Star Game Update

All of the five Yankees’ infielders have been voted into the top five at their respective position for the All-Star Game.  Derek Jeter is the only Yankee to hold a starting position, but he is also the leading vote-getter in the American League. 

The 2009 Midsummer Classic will be held at Busch Stadium, the home of the St. Louis Cardinals, on July 14.  Here is how the Yankees rank:

1st Base Votes
1.  Kevin Youkilis  (Bos) 414,693
3.  Mark Teixeira 295,798
2nd Base  
1.  Ian Kinsler  (Tex) 514,645
4.  Robinson Cano 257,695
3rd Base  
1.  Evan Longoria  (TB) 664,060
3.  Alex Rodriguez 245,414
Shortstop  
1.  Derek Jeter 664,630
Catcher  
1.  Joe Mauer  (Min) 381,443
4.  Jorge Posada 277,849

The only Yankees’ outfielder who made the top 15 was Johnny Damon, standing at 11th place, just over 70,000 votes away from a starting spot.

Here is MLB.com’s complete All-Star Game coverage.

Nady’s return will benefit Swisher

There is no denying that Nick Swisher did an excellent job carrying the Yankees when Xavier Nady went down and Alex Rodriguez was still recovering, but now he his slumping and Nady is on the verge of returning.  What will be done when Nady gets back, and how will it affect Swish?

Currently, Nady is playing in extended spring training games, and could find himself in the minors by the end of the week, according to the AP.  If Swisher’s struggles continue, I assume Nady will ease his way right back into his starting job in right field.

It’s interesting to speculate what has caused Swisher’s bat to disappear.  When Nady was healthy and starting, I’m willing to bet it made Swisher work a little harder to possibly overtake Nady’s spot.

There was a similar position battle in the first couple weeks in another outfield spot.  Brett Gardner started out the year in center, but his poor hitting boosted Melky Cabrera to earn his position back and now is hitting with all the confidence in the world.

I think Swish will continue to slump until Nady is back and drives that competitive spirit back in him.  The Yankees have been winning without Swisher’s bat thanks to A-Rod’s return.

Nady coming back to the Bronx is for the best for the team and Swisher.  Another consistent bat will never hurt the lineup, and Swisher can go back to his initial role of providing depth, especially for a team that will need it as they enter their away portion of interleague games.

May 26, 2009

11th Featured Yankee Card of the Week!


Sadly, I don’t have any original Mickey Mantle Cards from the ‘50s and ‘60s, but I do have a number of remakes.  This is a cool card because it is one of 500 different variations.  There is a card for each one of his homers, but this one happens to be his 500th – making it more valuable.

My dad is a huge Mantle fan, and apparently had several cards of him.  However, he is one of the thousands of kids that had his baseball cards thrown out by his mother.

May 25, 2009

A-Rod, Hughes dominant in slaughter

Alex Rodriguez was perfect from the plate, and Phil Hughes was near perfect from the mound for the Yankees (26-19) in an 11-1 thumping of the Rangers (26-18).

Quick ‘Cap:
Every starter for the Yankees had at least one hit, but A-Rod stole the show with a 5-for-5 game including two doubles and four RBI.  The Yankees scored two in the first, but broke the game open with a four-run rally in the third.  After Rodriguez’s first double, Robinson Cano cracked a two-run triple and he later scored on a groundout.

Ironically, the only three hits off Hughes  were doubles.  He tossed eight shutout innings and retired the last nine batters he faced.  Remember, the last time he faced the Rangers was his first start of his career back in 2007.  A game that he threw 6 1/3 no-hit innings before leaving with a leg injury.

The Yankees made it 7-0 in the fifth when Nick Swisher singled in a run, and then tacked on three more in the sixth.  A-Rod’s second double was good for two more RBI.  The Rangers scored their only run in the ninth on a solo homer.  Surprisingly, none of the Yankees’ 11 runs came on a homer.  Full box score here.

Thoughts:
Well, that was an unexpected way to win.  Hughes may have solidified his spot in the rotation for the remainder of the season with this gem, or maybe he just loves pitching in Arlington, Tex.  I’m glad A-Rod finally got a few hits that weren’t homers…

Noteworthy Performances:
- Rodriguez: 5-for-5, 2 R, 4 RBI
- Hughes: 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 6 K
Nice.

Up Next:
Joba Chamberlain (2-1, 3.70) can win the series for the Yankees tomorrow night, but Kevin Millwood (4-4, 3.12) will try to prevent that.

Poll Results: Yankees won’t be in first by end of May, AL East up for grabs

Fans voted that the Yankees would not be able to win their way to first place in the AL East, but only by a slim margin.

Yes they will:  45% 
No they won’t:  54%

Despite the results, I would not count the Yanks out at all.  Here’s a look at the standings before play on Memorial Day.

al.east.standings 
Here is the remaining schedule for AL East teams:

Red Sox:  Twins (4), Blue Jays (3) 
Blue Jays:  (Orioles (3), Red Sox (3) 
Yankees:  Rangers (3), Indians (3) 
Rays:  Indians (4), Twins (3)

Obviously, the Red Sox-Blue Jays is the big series to watch here.  If the Yankees can take two out of three from the Rangers, I’ll be happy.  There is no reason why the Yanks shouldn’t sweep the Twins again.

May 24, 2009

Phillies take series in extras

The Yankees had their chance to win the game in the 10th, but they failed to do so and Brett Tomko blew the game in the 11th.  A two-out RBI double by Carlos Ruiz gave the Phillies (24-18) a 4-3 win over the Yanks (25-19).

Quick ‘Cap:
The Phils touched up CC Sabathia for two runs in the third inning with two out, and the Yankees responded with one run off Cole Hamels.  Johnny Damon doubled in Francisco Cervelli, but then Damon was gunned out at home trying to score on a Mark Teixeira single.

The hottest hitter for the Phillies, Raul Ibanez, hit an RBI double in the sixth to put his team up two.  The Yanks came right back, again, when Teixeira led off the sixth with a homer to left – his 13th on the year.

The Yankees spoiled another save opportunity for Brad Lidge, but they could only manage the one run needed to tie the game.  Melky Cabrera drove him Ramiro Pena, who was pinch running for Robinson Cano.

Teixeira found himself in a pivotal spot in the game in the bottom of the tenth, but he did not prevail.  With first and second, nobody out, he grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.  After Alex Rodriguez was intentionally walked, Pena flew out to center, stranding Derek Jeter at third.  Ruiz delivered the game-winning hit in the tenth off Brett Tomko, who relieved Mariano Rivera.

Thoughts:
The Yanks had their chance, but blew it.  Simple as that.  When I was listening to the situation they had in the tenth, I immediately thought of a sac-bunt and a fly ball that would win them the game.  I understand it sounds stupid to bunt Teixeira, but it could have won them the game.

Noteworthy Performances:
- Jeter had his first three-hit game in May, and he raised his average to .287.
- Cabrera also had three hits, and he is now up to .328.
- Sabathia gave up three runs over eight innings – his fourth straight outing that was seven innings or longer.

Up Next:
The loss concluded the Yankees’ 10-game homestand, in which they went 8-2, and now they will travel to Arlington, Tex. for a three-game series with the 1st place Rangers.  Phil Hughes (2-2, 7.06) will face Matt Harrison (4-3, 4.71)in the series opener.

May 23, 2009

Yankees resume walk-off ways

In the beginning of their recent winning streak, the Yankees used three walk-off wins to gain momentum. After the streak finally ended last night, the Yanks may have gotten back on track with another walk-off win. Melky Cabrera’s RBI single in the ninth propelled the Yankees (25-18) to a 5-4 win over the Phillies (23-18).

Quick ‘Cap:
The Yanks and Phils scored a run in the second inning, and the game remained tied until the fifth. Raul Ibanez hit his league-leading 17th homer, and Nick Swisher’s groundout scored Robinson Cano. Lefties J.A. Happ and Andy Pettitte were both strong throughout the game, but Pettitte ran into trouble in the fifth inning.

Phillies rookie John Mayberry wacked a three-run homer to left to open up the game, but Pettitte would stay strong through seven innings. Yankee captain Derek Jeter started the eventual comeback with a solo jack in the sixth to make the score 4-2.

Brad Lidge entered in the ninth inning looking for his ninth save, but the Yankees did not go quietly. Johnny Damon drew a leadoff walk, and after Mark Teixeira struck out, Alex Rodriguez tied it up with one swing. It was his sixth home run in eight days. The Yankees weren’t done, as Robinson Cano singled and stole second with still just one out. Cabrera singled to right-center field and Cano scored easily.

Thoughts:
Another walk-off win for the Yankees – their fourth on this homestand alone. A walk-off win occasionally is bound to happen, but this many so quickly is a sign of real clutch hitting. It is the best way to win, and it seems the Yankees are the best at it.

Noteworthy Performances:
- Phil Coke tossed 1 2/3 scoreless innings after Pettitte left. He allowed one hit to Chase Utley, but was a big key to the win.

Up Next:
Sunday’s afternoon matchup in in line to be a great one. Two stud lefties Cole Hamels (2-2, 4.95) and CC Sabathia (4-3, 3.43) will duel in the rubber match.

Phillies snap Yankees streak

The first game of interleague play was not so kind to the Yankees.  A.J. Burnett gave up three homers and the Yankees (24-18) fell to the Phillies (23-17) 7-3.

Quick ‘Cap:
Jimmy Rollins led off the game with a homer to right, and the Phils never lost their lead.  Johnny Damon was thrown out at home by Rollins after Alex Rodriguez doubled doubled to left.

The Phils extended their lead to three when Carlos Ruiz (No. 9 hitter) hit a two-run shot in the second.  They made it 5-0 when Jayson Werth hit another two-run jack in the fifth.  A-Rod finally put the Yanks on the board with a solo homer in the sixth, but Burnett’s day was done.

Chien-Ming Wang, who was added to the Yankees bullpen today, tossed the final three innings but did not look good.  He allowed six hits and two runs.

Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira homered in the eighth, but that was all.  Brett Myers pitched eight strong innings and scattered eight hits.  Full box score here.

Thoughts:
All good things must come to an end.  The Yankees had to lose a game eventually, and it came against the defending champs.  However, this is no time to get back in a slump.  They need to show they can compete with any team.

Noteworthy Performances:
- Rodriguez hit his fifth homer in seven days.  He’s only batting .200 so far, but he still has his power.

Up Next:
The Phillies will send out J.A. Happ (2-1, 2.49) in tomorrow’s game 2 at 4:10 p.m.  The Yankees counter with Andy Pettitte (4-1, 4.18).

May 21, 2009

Yankees win without Joba, sweep Orioles

The Yankees starter Joba Chamberlain left the game with a bruised knee in the first inning, but the Yankees (24-17) carried on with their usual business without him and won their ninth consecutive game.

Quick ‘Cap: 
Alfredo Aceves took over for Joba in the first, and tossed 3 1/3 shutout innings against the Orioles (16-25).  The Yankees’ bats took care of Aceves by scoring four in the first and two in the second.  Robinson Cano was responsible for three of the six runs with his RBI-double in the first and two-run homer in the second.  He batted second in place of Johnny Damon who was given a day off.

Jonathan Albaladejo followed Aceves and struggled in his 2 1/3 innings.  He allowed four runs – two of them from homers.  With Hideki Matsui’s solo shot in the fifth, the Yankees were ahead 7-4 going into the eighth.  Jose Veras almost blew the game, but managed to induce a fly out  from Brian Roberts.  Mariano Rivera worked a perfect ninth for his ninth save.  Full box score here.

Thoughts: 
The Orioles were clearly overmatched this series by a hot Yankee team.  The Yanks averaged nine runs per game in the three wins.  The main concern of this game is Chamberlain’s health, but a bruised knee does not sound so bad.

Noteworthy Performances: 
- Cano went 3-for-4 with three RBI and two runs.  He seems to be getting hot again after a mini slump. 
- Francisco Cervelli went 0–for-4 in the contest, losing 47 points from his batting average.  Although, he came into the game hitting .370, and has been taken for granted. 
- Albaladejo was charged with his first four runs of May, and his ERA rose back up to 6.00.

Up Next: 
The first interleague action begins tomorrow in baseball, and the Yankees will remain at home to face the defending champion Phillies.  Brett Myers (3-2, 4.50) opposes A.J. Burnett (2-1, 5.02).

May 20, 2009

Hughes & Cano star in eighth straight win for Yanks

In what might have been the last start for Phil Hughes (for the time being), the Yankees (23-17) slugged their way past the Orioles (16-24) to an 11-4 victory.  Hughes struck out nine in just five innings, and Robinson Cano was the only Yankee with three hits and had a game-high three runs batted in.

Quick ‘Cap: 
Mark Teixeira hit an RBI-double in the first inning; the first of five unanswered against the Orioles.  In the second frame, Nick Swisher, Cano and Melky Cabrera went back-to-back-to-back to give the Yanks a 4-0 lead. (John Sterling had to recite a handful of calls for that series of events.)  Cano made it 5-0 with an RBI-single in the third.

The Orioles pecked away at the deficit with a two-run shot from Ty Wiggington in the fourth, and a solo shot from Adam Jones in the fifth.  Hughes would exit the game after the fifth, despite striking out the side in his last inning.

With the Orioles threatening in the eighth, Joe Girardi put in closer Mariano Rivera, but the Yankees posted a long six-run rally in the eighth to remove any anxiety from Yankee fans.  Girardi still kept Rivera in for the ninth.  He allowed a home run, but also earned his eighth save.  Full box score here.

Thoughts: 
If you are a Yankees fan, you should definitely be excited, but not too excited.  They are on an eight-game winning streak, but six of those wins are against some of the weakest teams in the AL.  I want to see this streak last through the weekend (against the Phillies).  Then, I will be excited.

Noteworthy Performances: 
- Cano was 3-for-4 with three RBI, and he lifted his batting average back over .300 (.307). 
- Alfredo Aceves provided two huge innings of middle relief, and has gone relatively unnoticed in his short stint with the Yanks this season.  His hold was a big factor in the win.

Up Next: 
The Yanks look to sweep the Orioles Thursday night, and they will send out Joba Chamberlain (2-1, 3.76).  He will face a struggling Adam Eaton (2-4, 7.93).

Defending Sterling

A couple days ago, I read two articles disparaging the CBS Radio broadcaster for the Yankees, John Sterling (River Ave. Blues & NY Post).  I have always liked Sterling, although I understand why some people want to replace him.  However, after listening to the Blue Jays and Orioles radio announcers, I have come to appreciate Sterling a lot more.

A necessity for a radio broadcaster is to keep the audience updated with the status of the game.  Sterling does an excellent job of reiterating the details of the score and inning of the game.  When listening to the Blue Jays and Orioles announcers, quite often I found myself wondering what was the status of the game .  Sterling’s voice is so deep and succinct that there is never confusion in what he says.  Plus, the adjectives he uses to describe the events are normally dead-on.

We have witnessed in television broadcasts, most notably with Joe Morgan, huge digressions from the game.  TV networks will claim that it okay because the TV audience does not need a constant play-by-play commentary when the game is happening right before their eyes.  However, with a radio broadcast, the conversations that deviate from the game need to be held to a minimum.  In my opinion, this is the biggest advantage Sterling has over the other broadcasters.  Sterling truly describes the game.

Another thing that makes him great is the joy he brings to the booth; because along with joy comes excitement.  The Blue Jays and Orioles announcers could care less when the Yankees did anything good, and even when their team did well, there was nothing that brought me out of my seat.  Sterling brings a great deal of excitement for both teams’ fans and does not overly bias things in favor of his Yankees.  After listening to Boston Celtics color commentator Tommy Heinsen for 10 years, you know what bias in a broadcast is.

Get a load of this:  (found on RAB)

Fans don’t seem to realize that it will be easy to identify who is calling the famous replays of this era 50 years from now.  Sterling has made his calls memorable with distinct calls for each player, such as “A-Bomb, Tex message, Thrilla from Godzilla…” (just to name a few).  These repeated calls become a big part of the collective memory of this Yankees era.  These “cheesy” phrases are a lot better than a monotone call like “a home run from Alex Rodriguez.”

The only negative I see with Sterling is his occasional miscue.  Just the other day, he mistakenly called Matsui’s double as a home run.  Yes, the call messed with listeners’ mentalities a lot.  But I think a mental lapse is allowed every once in awhile, and his positives outweigh his negatives.

May 19, 2009

Sabathia goes seven strong in seventh straight win for Yanks

The Yankees (22-17) struggled against Orioles (16-23) starter Brad Bergesen until the seventh when all the wheels fell off.  CC Sabathia turned in his third straight excellent outing –winning each time- for his fourth victory on the season.

Quick ‘Cap:
Brian Roberts scored the only run for the Orioles after he stole third and advanced home on a groundout.  Sabathia went into lockdown mode after that.  He retired 12 straight batters, gave up a hit and a walk, then retired the next eight.  He could have easily pitched the eighth, but it wasn’t necessary.

The Yankees already had the lead after the first inning was over thanks to Alex Rodriguez.  With Johnny Damon on base, A-Rod left the yard for the fourth straight game.  Besides that mistake pitch to A-Rod, Bergesen shut down the Yankees through the sixth inning.  Unfortunately for the O’s, their manager Dave Trembley opted to stick with Bergesen in the seventh.

He walked the first two batters forcing Trembley to make a move.  He brought in Chris Ray –perhaps not giving him enough time to warm up- and he imploded.  Melky Cabrera singled to load the bases, and then the Orioles shortstop botched what would have been an inning-ending double play.  In lieu of the double play, Nick Swisher scored, Derek Jeter hit a bases-clearing double, Damon drove Jeter home with a single, and Mark Teixeira capped the rally with a two-run shot.  Seven scored in the inning, and the Yankees led 9-1.

Brian Bruney -fresh off the DL- threw a 1-2-3 eighth, and Brett Tomko did the same in the ninth.  For the Yankees, it was their seventh straight W, and the second loss in a row for the Orioles.  Full box score here.

Thoughts:
The Orioles showed a lot of guts staying with the Yanks for six and a half innings, but their bullpen cannot handle any sort of offensive threat.  Sabathia has been sharp as of late, and his offense has scored enough for him to win.

Noteworthy Performances:
- Damon was the only Yankee with two hits in the game.  He now has seven hits in his last 16 at bats.
- Sabathia has been on a roll.  Tonight: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB and 7 K.

Up Next:
Game 2 is Wednesday night at 7:05 p.m.  Jeremy Guthrie (3-3, 5.21) will oppose Phil Hughes (1-2, 7.56).

Why are the Yankees so hot right now?

In the beginning of May, the Yankees lost five games in a row, but the return of Alex Rodriguez and strong starting pitching have lifted the Yankees to four games above .500 —their highest mark all season— and six straight victories.

A-Rod has had a major effect on this lineup, despite his personal struggle to collect hits.  His aura intimidates pitchers and allows batters to see better pitches to hit.  Mark Teixeira has been the most notable to benefit from A-Rod’s presence.

Tex has said that having A-Rod waiting in the on-deck circle when he is up is a big factor to his success.  Teixeira is batting .458 with 11 RBI during the streak, and he has been a key contributor in all of the wins except for two.

Along with Teixeira, the only other constant has been the success of their starting pitchers.  During the winning streak, five of the six games the starter has pitched the sixth inning or more.  The only exception was Phil Hughes when he pitched the first game against the Twins, but the well-rested bullpen was able to fill in for him.  Why were they rested?  Because CC Sabathia tossed eight innings the night before.

When the Yankees batted around in the first inning of their most recent win against the Twins, it symbolized how the Yankees have discovered their recent success.

In each of their last six wins, a different hero has stepped up to deliver the big hit or big play needed to win the ballgame.  It goes to show how valuable it is to have quality players throughout the entire lineup.

May 18, 2009

Yanks top Twins 7-6 behind huge first inning

The Yankees hitters batted around in the first inning against Twins starter Glen Perkins scoring six runs in the process.  The Yanks (21-17) would only need one more run to sweep the Twins (18-21) in the four-game series.  That marks six straight victories for the Bronx Bombers.

Quick ‘Cap: 
Before the Yankees enjoyed teeing off against Perkins, Andy Pettitte had to make it through the top of the first, which wasn’t easy.  Both of the new M&M boys (not Mantle and Maris) came up with run-scoring singles to give the Twins the early 2-0 lead.

Perkins allowed singles to Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon, and then back-to-back homers to Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez.  But the Yankees’ bats wouldn’t let up.  Robinson Cano hit a ground-rule double, and Melky Cabrera scored him on a single.  After a passed ball, Francisco Cervelli drove in the Melk-man.  Cervelli was the last batter Perkins faced, and the Twins escaped further damage.

As usual, Pettitte had no easy innings, but he was able to get out of most of them.  He gave up a long homer to Michael Cuddyer in the fourth, and another run in the sixth.

Teixeira led off the seventh with his second homer of the game to provide the Yanks with some much needed insurance.  Both Edwar Ramirez and Phil Coke gave up one run in the eighth and ninth, but the Twins fell short by just one run.  Full box score here.

Thoughts: 
The streak of walk-off wins had to come to an end, but the winning streak did not.  Every Yankee had at least one hit, and five of them had two.  Their lineup top to bottom is getting stronger by the day, which is a great sign.  Keep in mind, they are on a six-game winning streak, but four of them have come against a team that has never had success in the Bronx.

Noteworthy Performances: 
- I can’t say enough about Teixeira’s hot hitting.  During this winning streak, Tex is batting .458 with 11 RBI.

Up Next: 
The Yankees will continue their homestand against the Orioles on Tuesday.  The big lefty CC Sabathia (3-3, 3.70) will square off against Brad Bergesen (1-1, 5.27) at 7:05 p.m.

10th Featured Yankee Card of the Week!

Finally, Mark Teixeira (right) has started to hit the ball, and that has earned him my 10th pick of the Featured Yankee Card of the Week.  He is paired with the Rangers' other corner infielder Hank Blalock.  This 2003 Topps Gold card was correct in predicting that the two infielders would be future stars.

The card comes with some extra value because it is a "gold" card.  There is another version of this card that is not gold, and is just the standard blue.  In general, I like the design of the card a lot.

Poll Results: Teixeira not being helped by A-Rod

In a small sample size, my latest poll has concluded that Alex Rodriguez will not help Mark Teixeira break out of his slump.  Here are the results:

Yes he will help:  36% 
No he won’t help:  63%

Well, if A-Rod isn’t the cause, then someone or something else is, because Teixeira is definitely out of his slump.  Tex seemed to disagree with the voters when he talked to CBS Radio after Saturday’s walk-off victory (the game he went 4-for-4 at the dish).

“Alex is helping me out.  He’s giving me pitches to hit.”

I agree with him.  Even though A-Rod isn’t hitting all that great, pitchers are pitching around him, which shows that they are scared.  No pitcher wants to put a runner on for A-Rod, and that results in better pitches to hit. 

This situation is similar to what the Red Sox used in recent years with David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez.  If it worked for them, maybe it will work for the Yanks.

May 17, 2009

Yankees clinch series with Damon’s walk-off

I think the Yankees are running out of pies. Each time the Yankees walk off with a win at home, the player who had the game-winning hit takes a pie in the face.

Johnny Damon was the recipient of the latest pie, as he crushed a solo homer in the 10th inning for the Yankees (20-17) to beat the Twins (18-20) 3-2. For the Yankees, it was their fifth consecutive win and seventh of their last nine.

Quick ‘Cap:
A.J. Burnett and Kevin Slowey matched zeroes through six innings, but both succumbed in the seventh. The Twins scored their first run on a walk and two singles, and their second came on a wild pitch – Burnett threw two against Joe Mauer and Nick Punto came all the way around to score from second base.

After Jonathan Albaladejo finished the seventh for Burnett, Alex Rodriguez led off the bottom of the inning. He homered to left on the second pitch he saw from Slowey. That hit regained the momentum for the Yanks, and Hideki Matsui immediately followed with a double. Then the Yankees played a little small ball to tie it up. Nick Swisher lay down a sac-bunt to move Matsui to third, and Melky Cabrera hit a sac-fly to left.

The Yankees almost won the game in the ninth inning on a quirky play. With Brett Gardner at second, Francisco Cervelli hit a comebacker to the mound and it was knocked down by the pitcher. Mauer scrambled out from behind home to grab the ball and throw out Cervelli, but he faked the throw when he saw Gardner bolting around third. As Gardner dove for home, Mauer dove for Gardner and barely tagged him out before his hands touched the plate.

Alfredo Aceves relieved Mariano Rivera in the tenth and shut the Twins down once again. After Derek Jeter grounded out to lead off the 10th, Damon followed with the walk-off bomb. Full box score here.

Thoughts:
A Yankee fan could not ask for any more excitement in these past three games. Three walk-off win’s in a row, are you kidding me?

Noteworthy Performances:
- The hero, Damon, was 3-for-5 in the game with the home run. He is now batting .324.
- Burnett pitched 6 2/3 innings and gave up six hits and two runs, but struck out seven. He walked six Twins hitters in his 123-pitch outing
- Brett Tomko and Mark Teixeira may have saved the game in the top of the eighth. Tomko entered the game with the bases loaded and one out. He induced a hard grounder to Teixeira that he nabbed with a dive to his backhand, and then came to his feet to throw out the runner at home.

Up Next:
The Yankees look to sweep Monday night in a nationally televised game on ESPN. Two southpaws Glen Perkins (1-2, 4.27) and Andy Pettitte (3-1, 4.00) will start in the duel.

May 16, 2009

Teixeira’s big day and A-Rod’s ‘A-Bomb’ boosts Yanks past Twins in extras

How does two walk-off wins in a row sound to you? Last night it was Melky Cabrera, and today it was Alex Rodriguez. Although, it was Mark Teixeira’s perfect day at the plate that propelled the Yankees (19-17) to a 6-4 victory over the Twins (18-19) in 11 innings.

Quick ‘Cap:
Down 1-0 in the third, Teixeira crushed a three-run jack to right-center field to give the Yankees a lead they would hold until the eighth.

Both M&M boys Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau homered for the second straight game to keep the Twins in the game. Mauer’s came off Joba Chamberlain in the fourth, and Morneau’s was off Phil Coke. Coke had saved Jose Veras in the seventh by escaping a big jam. But after taking care of Mauer in the eighth, he grooved one to Morneau and he didn’t miss. A walk and a double later, the Twins were on top 4-3 and Coke was gone.

In the bottom of the eighth, Hideki Matsui led off with a pinch-hit ground-rule double – that was originally called a home run by John Sterling (he didn’t see it bounce). Luckily for the Yanks, Teixeira, who could not be retired by any Twins pitcher, drove in the tying run with two out for his fourth hit of the game.

Mariano Rivera pitched through an easy ninth and a scary 10th, but the Yankees couldn’t score for him. Alfredo Aceves pitched a 1-2-3 11th to give the Yankees’ meat of the order a crack at breaking the tie. Tex led off with a walk, and A-Rod smoked a no-doubter to left-center. It was the Yanks’ second walk-off in as many days, and their fourth straight win.

Thoughts:
Even though the win is a great sign for the Yankees, who have forgotten how to lose, the more important story is the emergence of Teixeira. Ever since his two-homer game against the Red Sox on May 4, he has been on a hitting tear. He’s batting .327 with five homers and 14 RBI. Last night it was the kids who won the game, and today it was the vets. The Yankees lineup is as potent as ever, and the starting pitching has put them in position to win ballgames.

Noteworthy Performances:
- Teixeira went 4-for-4 with four RBI and a walk. This is what the Yankees have been waiting for, and it paid off today.
- Rodriguez went 1-for-4, but his one hit was a walk-off homer. However, he’s still batting just .154. Hopefully today’s game can jumpstart his bat.

Up Next:
The Yankees look to take the series on Sunday at 1:05 p.m., and the game will be aired on TBS for those who don’t get the YES Network. Kevin Slowey (5-1, 4.91) will pitch against A.J. Burnett (2-1, 5.36).

Melky’s walk-off gives Yanks third straight win

Maybe the battle for center field between Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner is a meaningless. After Johnny Damon was ejected for arguing balls and strikes, Gardner took over the game and again ignited a late comeback. But Cabrera became the hero in the ninth as the Yankees (18-17) nipped the Twins (18-18) 5-4.

Quick ‘Cap:
Justin Morneau homered twice off Phil Hughes – his second gave the Twins a 3-0 lead in the fifth. The Yankee captain Derek Jeter began chipping away at the deficit with a solo shot to where else but right field. Hughes left after the fifth, and Phil Coke allowed a bases-empty home run to Joe Mauer in the seventh.

Francisco Liriano was taken out after six innings of work (six walks), and Gardner took advantage of the situation. He blooped a fly ball barely fair down the left field line and the ball took a top spin hop past Denard Span, opening the door for Brett “the jet” to use his wheels. He sped around all three bases and dove in head first at home for an inside-the-parker, making the score 4-2.

Joe Nathan came on in the ninth looking for his seventh save, but the Yankees had other plans. After a leadoff triple from Gardner, Mark Teixeira singled up the middle to bring in Gardner. A couple of walks and a couple of outs later, Cabrera stepped up to the batter’s box with the bases loaded. He jumped on the first pitch he saw from Nathan and inserted it in the gap in left-center field. “And the Yankees win the game!” – Michael kay. Full box score here.

Thoughts:
I think Melky and Brett do better when both are in the game at the same time, even though there’s only room for one of them in center field. Anyway, what a way to start a homestand. That’s three in a row, and five out of seven.

Noteworthy Performances:
- Alex Rodriguez received cheers before his first at bat, but after he struck out with the bases loaded in his second AB, he heard the boos. He finished his Yankee Stadium debut 0-for-1 with four walks.
- Gardner went 3-for-3, just a double short of the cycle. His hot hitting as of late has lifted his average to .256.

Up Next:
Game 2 of the series will be a Saturday matinee featuring Nick Blackburn (2-2, 4.32) and Joba Chamberlain (2-1, 3.89). First pitch is set for 1:05.

May 15, 2009

Yankee Tidbits

There are a lot of issues boiling with the Yankees right now.  Feel free to comment on any topic.

  • The Yankees just finished their AL East road trip with a 4-2 record.  They open up a 10-game homestand tonight that will feature the Twins, Orioles and Phillies.  Can they finish above .500?
  • Nick Swisher has been in a terrible funk lately.  Because of Xavier Nady’s absence, he has assumed starting duties on a regular basis.  Swisher has shown he can be a powerful weapon, but now he is becoming a liability.  Does Swisher need a break from playing everyday?
  • The Yankees’ three and four hitters, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, are combining to bat .200 this season.  That’s a problem.  Does Joe Girardi need to mix up the lineup or wait for things to fix themselves?
  • A-Rod will make his Yankee Stadium debut tonight, and he has always loved the smell of home.  He is a career .314 hitter at home, and he batted .324 at Yankee Stadium last season.  Will his new home lift him up from his recent hitting woes?
  • The Yankees have made batting practice before games a friendlier time for fans.  Any fan will be allowed to go into the closest sections to the field down the left and right field lines.  Previously, only ticket holders in these sections were permitted.  I’m happy with this, are you?

May 14, 2009

Jeter & Matsui lead late comeback in rubber match

Apparently, the day off yesterday for Derek Jeter and Hideki Matsui was all they needed.  Both players delivered key hits in the late innings to carry the Yankees (17-17) over the Blue Jays (23-14) 3-2 to take the series.

Quick ‘Cap:
Johnny Damon continued his extra-base hit streak to 10 games when he doubled in the first inning.  He scored after Blue Jays starter Brian Tallet walked three men – Nick Swisher drew the third that forced in Damon.  But Tallet settled down after his shaky first and pitched shutout ball until he seventh.

CC Sabathia retired every Blue Jays hitter through the fourth inning except for Alex Rios.  Rios singled in the first, and then homered in the fourth to tie the game at one. 

The pitching from both teams was great, and so was the defense.  After Sabathia allowed an RBI double to Rod Barajas in the fifth, Brett Gardner gunned down Barajas at the plate when he tried to score on a John McDonald single.  In the top of the sixth, Derek Jeter made a diving play on a grounder, and in the bottom half Scott Rolen snagged a liner off the bat of Alex Rodriguez robbing extra bases.

Jeter, who wasn’t expected to be play until Friday, found himself in a nice spot to tie the game in the seventh with Gardner at third and nobody out.  Jeter came through by muscling an inside pitch into short right field that easily scored Gardner.

Sabathia worked out of a huge jam in the seventh by striking out John McDonald with a man on third and one out.  Matsui, who also wasn’t expected in the lineup, silenced Toronto fans with a leadoff home run in the eighth.  Sabathia breezed through the eighth, and Mariano Rivera did his thing in the ninth to preserve the win.  Full box score here.

Thoughts:
It was one heck of a game to listen to, and an important victory for the Yanks.  They showed that the Jays are not as strong as they seem, and are definitely a beatable ball club.  Jeter and Matsui playing tonight erases any doubt in my mind I had about their health.  They are healthy, and showed that with their clutch hits.

Noteworthy Performances:
- Swisher’s RBI in the first was just his third in all of May.  He was hitless on the night, and is 3-for-32 this May.
- Sabathia was the real hero of this game.  8 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 5 K.  This is the guy I envisioned when the Yankees signed him.  A guy that can give the bullpen rest, and personally hand the ball to Rivera.

Up Next:
The Yankees head back to the Bronx to open a four-game series with the Minnesota Twins.  Friday night’s matchup features two young-guns:  Francisco Liriano (2-4, 5.75) vs. Phil Hughes (1-2, 8.49).

Blue Jays ‘lucky’ thus far

Cliff Corcoran, a Sports Illustrated writer, attempted to answer if the Blue Jays are the “real deal.”

In the middle of his analysis, he pointed out that luck has been on Toronto’s side.  Starters Scott Rolen, Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, Aaron Hill and Rod Barajas have all been playing out of their minds and have stayed relatively healthy.  Then again, this is what the Rays hitters were doing last season, and they didn’t slow down.

However, I think the main factor behind the Jays’ early success is their ease of schedule.  But this series with the Yankees marks the beginning of a challenging remaining schedule.  Corcoran sums it up beautifully.

The Jays play two-thirds of their games against the AL East in the second half, but they have six games against the second-place Red Sox over the remainder of May, three games against the defending NL champion Phillies in June and a run of 13 games against the Phillies, Rays, Yankees and Rays again leading up to the All-Star break. We'll have a much better idea of how good Toronto is by the end of that stretch, and it seems fair to suggest that, while the Jays probably are a better team than many thought, they won't have one of the best records in baseball by the time July rolls around.

This team has taken care of some of the weaker teams in the AL, but I just don’t see them holding up down the road.

May 13, 2009

Gardner gets into swing of things, Yanks beat Jays 8-2

Sparked by Brett Gardner’s first career home run, the Yankees (16-17) rallied past the Blue Jays (23-13) in the second inning and went on to win 8-2.

Quick ‘Cap:
The Blue Jays took advantage of an early error by Robinson Cano to take a 1-0 lead.  But in the second, the Yanks struck back in a big way highlighted by some unlikely heroes.  Melky Cabrera led off with a double, and Gardner followed by lining a ball over the right field fence to give the Yankees the 2-1 lead.  But the rally was just getting started.

Ramiro Pena immediately followed Gardner with a triple to the gap in right-center and then scored after Johnny Damon hit a triple of his own – marking his ninth straight game with an extra-base hit.  Then with two out, the sub-.200-hitter Mark Teixeira doubled home Damon.  After Alex Rodriguez walked for his second time in as many innings, Cano hit a hard single off Kevin Millar’s glove to plate Teixeira and give the Yanks a 5-1 lead.

It was another vintage Andy Pettitte outing as he battled out of jams and faced a high pitch count early on.  He made it through six innings after allowing just one more run in the fourth.  But the Yanks were in control and added two more in the fifth to make it 8-2.  Alfredo Aceves and Jonathan Albaladejo finished the final three innings smoothly to preserve Pettitte’s third win of the season.  Full box score here.

Thoughts:
It was great to see cold-hitting Yankees like Gardner and Teixeira showing signs of warmth.  Meanwhile, Damon is the hottest hitter on the planet, and is not slowing down.  With all of the injuries heading into the game, it was nice to see the replacements succeed.

Noteworthy Performances:
- Gardner notched his first career homer and his first triple of the season.  He drove in three runs and also walked once.
- Teixeira tallied two hits to raise his batting average to .202.  Let’s hope he doesn’t drop below .200 the rest of the season.
- Aceves pitched two scoreless innings, and provided a huge sigh of relief for the Yanks.  He and Phil Coke have looked like the most consistent relievers so far this season.

Up Next:
The decisive game three will be played tomorrow night at 7:07 p.m.  CC Sabathia (2-3, 3.94) will look to quiet the best hitting team in baseball, and will be opposed by Brian Tallet (2-1, 4.95).

Three more down for Yankees

The Yankees didn’t just lose the game last night, but they’ve also lost Derek Jeter (oblique), Hideki Matsui (hamstring) and Phil Coke (back).  Jeter and Matsui are out of the lineup for tonight’s game, and Coke is not available until Thursday. 

Jeter said he is hoping he can play tomorrow, but that is what he said last night about tonight’s game.  Jeter has suffered oblique troubles in the past that have landed him on the disabled list. 

This injury might be the answer to confused fans asking why Angel Berroa is still on the 25-man roster.  If Jeter hits the DL, Berroa is back in action as the utility infielder, while Ramiro Pena assumes Jeter’s position at short.

Matsui’s hamstring seems to be less of an issue, because he will be available to pinch hit tonight.  Joe Girardi is playing it safe because of his past knee injuries.  To me, if there’s any tightness, he shouldn’t be playing at all.  All the Yankees need is another addition to the DL.

Coke injured his back on Tuesday after standing up from a squat.  Girardi has said that he will not be available until Thursday at the earliest.

For a full injury report on all of the injured Yanks, read Tyer Kepner's report.

In-game update (8:34): Yankees are up 5-1 in the top of the fourth.

Check back later for a full game recap.

Burnett bombarded by boos

In last night's loss to the Blue Jays, A.J. Burnett was welcomed by his old team to a chorus of boos.  Not only was this disrespectful, but also a major sign of un-classiness.

Burnett did nothing wrong in his career with the Blue Jays, but still heard plenty of boos.  He even led the league in strikeouts last year.  Somebody like Carl Pavano deserves to get booed by his former team - a player who failed the team miserably and had high expectations.

After his career year last season, everybody knew he wasn’t coming back to Toronto.  However, since Burnett chose New York, he has to listen to his old team boo him for no good reason.  As John Sterling pointed out in yesterday’s broadcast, if Burnett had signed with any other team, he would receive cheers rather than jeers from the Jays.

The fans booing proves just how disconnected they were from the game.  There is no way that Burnett and his former teacher Roy Halladay had bad blood with each other after their great connection in Toronto for three years.

The Blue Jays booing is completely unwarranted.  After all, they’re in first place!  Maybe him leaving was the key to their success.  They’ve found plenty of young arms that have led them to their strong beginning, including tonight’s probable pitcher: Scott Richmond.

May 12, 2009

Halladay quiets Yanks

In a highly anticipated matchup between the A.J. Burnett and Roy Halladay, Halladay was triumphant.  He pitched all nine innings, and did so in speedy fashion – just two hours and 22 minutes.  With the win, the Blue Jays (23-12) extended their AL East lead over the Yankees (15-17) to 6.5 games.

Quick 'Cap:
After Johnny Damon (AL Player of the Week last week) was thrown out at second trying to extend a single into a double, Halladay retired the next 17 Yankee hitters in order.  But it got even worse for the Yanks; Hideki Matsui left the game in the fifth with a strained right hamstring.

Burnett was working on a no-no going into the fourth, but that’s when the Blue Jays’ bats started sounding off.  With the bases crammed, nobody out, Scott Rolen —who came into theat bat 0-for-19 lifetime against Burnett—  grounded a hot shot down the third baseline plating two runs for the Jays.  They added one more on a sac-fly from Rod Barajas.

The Yanks slipped one run past Halladay in the seventh when Alex Rodriguez’s grounder scored Damon from second, but that was all the Yanks could manage.  The Jays tacked on two more in the eighth to go onto a 5-1 victory.  Full box score here.

Thoughts:
Halladay carried a 2.86 ERA in 32 games against the Yankees in his career, and, according to John Sterling, pitched his best game ever against the Yankees tonight.  It is frustrating to run into a pitcher of Halladay’s caliber when the team is already in a slump.  Let’s just hope Matsui’s injury isn’t serious.

Noteworthy Performances:
- Damon was the only Yankee to muster anything offense against Halladay.  He went 2-for-4 to raise his season average up to .320.
- Burnett pitched well against a good hitting club.  Five earned runs over 7 2/3 innings (110 pitches) is a gutsy performance in my book.

Up Next:
Andy Pettitte (2-1, 4.38) and The Yankees look to rebound against Scott Richmond (4-1, 3.29) Wednesday night at 7:07 p.m.

New Yankee Stadium Pictures

My sister was lucky enough to get invited to see the Yankees play the Red Sox last Tuesday night.  I suggested she take some pictures, and she came through.

The biggest thing that I noted from her pictures was the scoreboard setup behind the center field stands.
yankee.stadium1That is an awfully big screen to show the player’s face while he is in the batters box.
yankee.stadium2This just shows how huge the players face is relative to anything else.  I do like the “Yankee Stadium” lettering.  It’s a nice touch without overdoing it.  Notice the balls, strikes and outs ticker (above the Delta sign) is separated from the rest of the scoreboard just like the old Yankee Stadium.
yankee.stadium3I have no idea why parts of the scoreboard are split up because all of the other parks have everything together.  I guess $1.3 billion wasn’t enough money to teach them to learn from their mistakes.

By the way, if you are an older fan that remembers the arches extending all the way around the stadium, here is proof of that theme renewed:
yankee.stadium4
You have to love to see those big clumps of dark blue seats unfilled against their biggest rivals…

Anyways, thanks for the photos Louise!

May 11, 2009

Poll Results: Wang’s return creates dilemma

My latest poll asked what the Yankees will do with their pitching staff when Chien-Ming Wang returns from the DL.

The poll results were not definitive between sending Phil Hughes down to the minors and moving Chamberlain to the bullpen, however, Peter Abraham’s most recent news might help make the decision a little easier.

Chien-Ming Wang will start Tuesday for Triple-A Scranton against Charlotte. He is cleared for 100 pitches.

If he pitches well, Wang could earn his return to the majors. Joe Girardi indicated that he is close.

Phil Hughes was shelled by the Orioles on Saturday, and could cost him his spot on the 25-man roster, for now.

Damon blasts Yanks past O’s

Joba Chamberlain’s first inning woes continued in the series finale against the Orioles (13-19), but two timely home runs in the seventh surged the Yankees (15-16) to victory.

Quick ‘Cap:
The Yanks struck first when Mark Teixeira deposited a two-out pitch from Koji Uehara into the right-field stands.  But Chamberlain, who gave up four runs in the first inning against the Red Sox in his last start, allowed a three-run bomb to Aubrey Huff that landed right next to Teixeira’s homer to make the score 3-1.

Chamberlain and Uehara battled through the next five innings, but evaded any damage with some key double plays.  It all fell apart for the Orioles when their manager Dave Trembley put the game in the hands of his bullpen. 

Southpaw Jamie Walker came in to face Robinson Cano, but Cano turned on a slider to bring the Yanks within one.  Back-to-back singles from Francisco Cervelli and Derek Jeter set the stage for the Yankees’ hottest hitter.  Johnny Damon delivered with a three-run shot to right to give the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish.  Mariano Rivera did his thing in the ninth for his sixth save of the season.  Full box score here.

Thoughts:
This season, opposing hitters were hitting .400 against Joba in the first inning, and has allowed half of his runs in the opening frame.  The Yankees could not afford to lose another divisional series this week, making today’s game a much needed win.

Noteworthy Performances:
- The Yankees are riding out Damon’s hot bat for as long as they can.  Today’s homer was his fifth in seven days.
- Francisco Cervelli has quietly produced above expectations so far as the starting catcher.  With two catchers above him on the depth chart sitting on the DL, I have been impressed with Cervelli.
- The unsung hero of this game was Phil Coke.  He bridged the gap between Joba and Mo beautifully.  He allowed one hit over two innings and struck out one Oriole.

Up Next:
The Yankees take the day off Monday and head up to Canada to take on their fourth straight divisional foe, the Blue Jays, on Tuesday night.  Joe Girardi has elected A.J. Burnett (2-0, 5.26) to face his former team, and his former teacher, Roy Halladay (6-1, 3.29).  Halladay and Greinke are the only two six-game winners in the majors thus far.

9th Featured Yankee Card of the Week!

This is Alex Rodriguez’s first full week of his 2009 season.  After homering on the first pitch he saw this season, he has slowed down to just one single in his last 10 at bats.

This card is a 1994 Action Packed Franchise Gem.  A-Rod is 18 years old in this card, and he is playing for the Appleton Foxes (former class-A affiliate for the Mariners).

May 10, 2009

Orioles feed on Hughes, defeat Yanks 12-5

Phil Hughes made his third start of his 2009 campaign last night against the Orioles, but it did not last very long (53 pitches).  He absorbed a beating in the second inning, and that was all the offense the Orioles would need to rip apart the Yankees.

Quick ‘Cap:
The O’s batted around in the second inning against Hughes and tallied eight runs supported by an Aubrey Huff three-run homer.  Edwar Ramirez pitched 3 1/3 innings of relief, his longest outing of his career, and allowed three additional runs to make it 11-1.

The only bit of offense for the Yankees came in the fifth, when Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira hit back-to-back bombs to right field making the score 11-4.  Brett Tomko made his Yankee debut in his thirteenth year of his career in the eighth inning, and gave up a homer to Adam Jones on the second pitch of his season.  Full box score here.

Thoughts:
Well, they can’t win ’em all, but they have dropped six of their last seven.  For some inexplicable reason, Hughes could not get batters out, and that dug them in too deep a hole.  A start like this has been a rarity this season for the Yanks, especially if you exclude Chien-Ming Wang’s three horrific starts.

Noteworthy Performances:
- Damon was the only Yankee with two hits in the game, and his fifth inning homer marked his eighth of the season and fourth of the week.
- Jonathan Albaladejo pitched two scoreless innings in relief.  His clean performance improved his ERA to 5.63.  Yuck.

Up Next:
The Yanks look to take the series this afternoon at 1:35 p.m.  It will be Joba Chamberlain (1-1, 3.77) vs. Koji Uehara (2-3,4.42) as long as Joba’s thumb is not bothering him.

May 9, 2009

A-Rod & CC star in shutout

After dropping a heart-breaker last night, Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia teamed up to put an end to the Yankees' slump. Rodriguez did not waste any pitches in making his welcome statement, and Sabathia didn't leave the game until he struck out the last three batters of the ninth. The 4-0 victory over the Orioles was their first win in a week.

Quick 'Cap:
Heading into A-Rod's first at bat, John Sterling harped on these upcoming games being A-Rod's spring training. After the first pitch, he was comparing his at bat to a "grade B movie from the 1930s." He said this because the three-run homer A-Rod belted to left field was so "corny."

Sabathia, who gave up six earned runs to the Orioles in their last meeting, did not allow an extra base hit in his first shutout as a Yankee.

Johnny Damon doubled home the Yankees' new sarting catcher, Francisco Cervelli, in the seventh to make it 4-0. Full box score here.

Thoughts:
A-Rod stole the show in the first inning, and Sabathia took it from there. I certainly could get used to the sound of that. I honestly believe that A-Rod's homer took the breath out of the Orioles. He walked up to the plate to a chorus of boos and fans holding fake syringes, but walked back to the dugout to overwhelming cheers. There is no doubt that this home run and this win could wind up being the turning point in the Yankees' season.

Note: I heard Sterling's call rather than Michael Kay's because I was in the car leaving Quinnipiac after completing my freshman year!

Noteworthy Performances:
- It was hard to stop laughing after A-Rod's home run. Prior to A-Rod's shot, it took all three of the Yankees' third basemen 401 pitches to hit their first home run.
- Sabathia's performance was overshadowed by A-Rod's homer, nevertheless it was his best outing in a Yankee uniform.

Up Next:
The Yanks look to return to .500 with a win tonight. Phil Hughes (1-1, 2.70) takes on Adam Eaton (1-3, 7.18) at 7:05 p.m.

May 7, 2009

Damon’s big day not enough to beat Rays

All four of Johnny Damon’s RBI came with two out, but the Rays slugged six home runs and defeated the Yankees 8-6, extending their losing streak to a Joe Girardi-era record, five games.  The Yankees (13-15) sink three percentage points below the Rays (14-16) for a virtual tie for third place in the AL East.

Quick ‘Cap:
Andy Pettitte and the Yankees found themselves in a four-run deficit after three innings.  He allowed two solo homers in the first, and then a two-run homer from Evan Longoria.  But the Yankees were able to tie the game up behind doubles from Jose Molina and Johnny Damon in the fourth, and a solo shot from Hideki Matsui in the fifth.  Pettitte gave the lead right back in the sixth when Ben Zobrist homered to left to end Pettitte’s night after the inning.

In the seventh, Jose Veras allowed the Rays to score one more on a two-out rally to extend their lead to 6-4.  The Rays’ part-time closer last season, Dan Wheeler, pitched the eighth inning but allowed Damon to tie the game back up with a two-run homer in the second deck.  Mariano Rivera, who struck out the Rays’ first three hitters last night, only could strike out the first Rays’ hitter.  He then allowed back-to-back jacks from Carl Crawford and Longoria, and the Yankees could not put anyone on base in their last chance in the ninth.  Full box score here.

Thoughts:
Another day, another loss for the Yankees.  Rivera and tie games have never mixed well; last night was just him pitching really well on a lot of rest.  If the Yankees had maybe one or two more guys hitting like Damon right now, they would not be losing any games.

Noteworthy Performances:
- Damon went 4-for-5 with 4 RBI – a triple shy of the cycle.  In these past two series, he is batting .500 with three doubles, three homers and nine RBI.
- Pettitte’s last two outings have been his only two blemishes this season.  Going into the game, he had only allowed one home run all season.  Tonight he gave up four.

Up Next:
The Yankees play their third divisional series in a row this weekend, as they open up a three-game set with the Orioles in Baltimore.  CC Sabathia (1-3, 4.85) will attempt to halt the Yanks’ losing streak against Jeremy Guthrie (2-2, 5.05) Friday night at 7:05 p.m.

Manny Ramirez positively took PEDs

Wow.  This is not my opinion, he really did test positive!  Manny Ramirez has incurred a 50-game suspension now that the MLB has confirmed this report.

UPDATE: A source told Yahoo that the substance Ramirez took, HCG, was meant for sexual enhancement.  Do you buy this?

One more baseball gargantuan has lost his reputation, forever.  Does he make the hall of fame now?  Does Alex Rodriguez?  Who knows what baseball will do with this era, but it is one of the most disappointing issues in all of sports.

May 6, 2009

Mariano Rivera is a control freak

After just watching him pitch the ninth inning in a 3-3 game, I have concluded that Mariano Rivera has the best control of one pitch in the major leagues.  After allowing a leadoff single to Dioner Navarro, Rivera K'ed the Rays' first three hitters.  

Yes, it's just one pitch that he has to control, but his precision of his cutter is unmatched by any pitch from any pitcher in the majors.

B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford were both caught looking, and both disagreed with the call.  Unfortunately for them, the overhead view of both pitches showed that Rivera's pitches were strikes, and he truly can place the ball anywhere he wants.  Not only can he put his pitches anywhere in the zone, but he has a perfect understanding of where the hitters' hot and cold spots are.  He even made Evan Longoria swing and miss twice, and only wasted one pitch in the at bat (probably intenionally) before striking him out.

I hope his control will be noted when his career is finally said and done.

Injury-plagued Yanks take on Rays

The Yankees' latest addition to the disabled list is Jorge Posada.  He joins Alex Rodriguez, Xavier Nady, Cody Ransom, Chien-Ming Wang, Brian Bruney and Damaso Marte.  Less than a month into the season, that is an absurd amount of injuries.  A-Rod should be back this Friday, so at least Posada's bat will be replaced.

The Yanks will have to play without A-Rod in the two-game series with the Rays that starts tonight.  Luckily, the Yankees will face their two weakest starters, and leave their big three for the Red Sox this weekend.

Via Pete Abe:

Tonight: RHP Andy Sonnanstine (1-3, 6.75) vs. RHP A.J. Burnett (2-0, 5.40), 7:05, YES.

Thursday: RHP Jeff Niemann (2-3, 5.68) vs. LHP Andy Pettitte (2-1, 3.82), 7:05, YES

Tonight's game preview:

RAYS (12-16)
Upton CF
Crawford LF
Longoria 3B
Pena 1B
Burrell DH
Gross RF
Bartlett SS
Iwamura 2B
Navarro C

Pitching:  Sonnanstine vs. Yankees

YANKEES (13-13)
Jeter SS
Damon LF
Teixeira 1B
Matsui DH
Cano 2B
Swisher RF
Cabrera CF
Pena 3B
Molina C

Pitching:  Burnett vs. Rays

Johan Santana or Mariano Rivera?

Who would you rather have on your team: Johan Santana or Mariano Rivera?

The debate of Joba Chamberlain's role is ironically not about Joba Chamberlain.  He is such a rare breed that he has the potential to be an ace of a rotation or a lockdown closer; it’s just a matter of your overall pitching strategy for a team.

It is not an easy question, especially if your team is in need of both roles.

Why he should start:

  • Career ERA as a starter:  3.06 and a K/BB ratio of 2.58
  • Possesses four quality pitches: fastball, slider, curveball and changeup
  • A starter in general is more valuable to a team because he pitches approximately three times the amount of innings a closer does
  • Keeps the bullpen fresh if he can go deep into ballgames

He showed last night he can throw all four pitches effectively.  Give him a few years as a starter, and he could attain a lot of confidence in all four pitches at any count.

Why he should close:

  • Career ERA as a reliever:  1.53 and a K/BB ratio of 3.90
  • Reaches 100 mph with his fastball and slings a nasty slider
  • A closer in general is more valuable to a team because a great one can essentially shorten the game to eight innings
  • Eludes the team from enduring heartbreaking losses

A flamethrower reliever like Joba only needs two pitches to do well, so he wouldn't need his curve or his change.

My side:

There is no doubt in my mind that Joba could be the Yankees' best chance at duplicating Rivera, but I think he also could develop into a front-of-the-line starter like Santana.  I have always said a starter is more valuable to a team, and I am sticking to it.

Don't let the big difference in numbers deceive you, because they are actually fairly similar to what a good starter's and closer's ERA are.  Relievers tend to have lower ERAs because they usually are pitching one inning in a night and can throw as hard as they want.  That reason in particular affects Joba because he will lose 6-8 mph off his fastball when he starts.

Also, the Yankees have two 24-year-olds Andrew Brackman and Mark Melancon developing that could potentially replace Rivera.  However, eventually people will realize that a guy like Rivera does not come along every year.

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